Many people are not sure how to get started using technology well in the classroom, our goal is not to just use tech but to use tech effectively to positively impact the learning taking place in our classrooms. People often have trouble getting started and are unsure how to get started once we have technology available to use in the classroom. They wonder what is the secret that some people have to using technology to make their classrooms a better learning environment. They see certain teachers who just use technology and they do not seem to have issues and their students seem to be using the technology for good, not evil.
Well, here is their secret, and it is a big one.
START WITH THE LEARNING GOALS FIRST
That is it, it all starts with our focus on what we want our students to learn and what we want them to do with what they learn. Effective technology use goes hand in hand with effective pedagogy. We can always find an app, website, program or tool that you can use in your classroom but if there isn’t good pedagogy to go with it, it will not be effective.
It is also important to keep in mind the 4C’s; Collaboration, Creation, Critical Thinking and Communication. The 4C’s are essential for learning in this day and age. Collaboration is the easiest to achieve in this digital age. We have so many ways that students can collaborate with each other as well as almost anyone else in the world. Our students are not confined to only work with students in their own classroom, they can use tools like Google Apps, Skype, Twitter, Blogger as well as many, many others to connect and share with others. We can have our students partner up with students at another school or even just let them work with students who may not be in the same section as them. These tools also allow the teacher to be part of the collaboration. Students can easily share with the teacher so they can be integrated into their learning process and not just receivers of the end product.
Do not focus on facts and memorization of information, focus on what students can do with the facts and information. We live in an age where we can look up almost everything in an instant, but we have to be able to do something with that information. Our students need to be critical thinkers about the information they can get so quickly, they need to be able to make sense and then do something with that information. Help students figure out what information sources they should use and how they can make sure they are dealing with credible information. Focus on asking them questions that required deep thinking and not just the quick retrieval of facts. Lectures and worksheets tend to not increase the critical thinking that takes place in the classroom, so we need to make sure that we choose wisely how we set up our classrooms so that the students have to be thinkers and not just passive members of the learning process.
When students create, they tend to not only learn more effectively but they also feel more engaged. In too many classrooms the students are merely consumers where if the were the creators, they would be learning at such a higher level. We do not need to dictate what they create or how they create as long as it meets our learning goals. Giving students options on what and how they create helps give them ownership of their learning which is also key. Students also tend to put in more effort when their creations are not just turned into the teacher but shared with the world. Students should be proud of what they create and should be able to share that with others. If their only audience is the teacher, they tend to not feel the desire to put forth effort and will follow the line of least resistance to just complete instead of learn.
It all comes down to the last C, communication. We need to become digital communicators that communicate not only with students, but parents and anyone else that wants to listen. We can use tools like Twitter and Google + as well as blogs or websites to communicate out to the world what learning is taking place in our classroom. If we are effective at communicating then we stand a better chance at involving parents and guardians getting involved in the learning process. A parent should never be confused about what is going on in the classroom, there needs to be communication between the teacher and others. A website can also be a great way to share out student work so that you share their creations with other. We haven’t even started talking about how we can use communication tools to help create a PLN (personal learning network) that contains educators and others around the world. The smartest person in the room is the room itself so we need to make sure we involve the room.
If you start with the learning goal and make use of the 4C’s, you stand a great chance at effectively using technology in the classroom. Actually, you stand a better chance at having an effective learning environment with or without technology. Technology is never our focus but it is a tool that we can make use of to create learning environments that are students want and deserve. We live in a world that is not like it was 50 or 100 years ago but yet many of our classrooms still reflect those of 50 to 100 years ago. It may be tough sometimes to learn a new tool or to integrate a new digital resource, but we do it so that we can improve the learning. Focus on the learning goals, get assistance with the tech to fit the learning goals and implement. Revise and try again. Do not fear the tech. Do not fear learning.